Unless you're a pretty well-read golf fan, chances are that one of the first times you heard about Graeme McDowell was Friday afternoon when he absolutely ravaged Pebble Beach en route to a 36-hole lead. But there's a little more to the lad than that. A quick primer:
McDowell is an Irish guy who went to college in Alabama. It sounds like the start of a very good joke, but it's the truth. McDowell was named the nation's top collegiate golfer in 2002, the same year he joined the European Tour.
Since then, he's been one of Europe's top golfers. He won in only his fourth event as a pro, and by 2004 he was ranked sixth on the European Tour's Order of Merit. He bounced back and forth between the European and PGA Tours, finally distinguishing himself once and for all on the 2008 Ryder Cup team. And now, he's leading the U.S. Open.
"This is one of the special places in the world of golf," he said after his Friday round. "There's a lot of golf courses in the world that kind of give you the goose bumps when you're playing them. Sort of first tee at St. Andrews, maybe the 17th at St. Andrews, here, Augusta, obviously. But when you're walking down 7, 8, 9, 10, here, it just is a beautiful place to play golf. And obviously to have your name at the top of the leaderboard of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is a special feeling. But you're out there and the golf course has got some teeth, so you're really trying to keep your wits about you."
We'll see over the weekend how long he's able to keep his wits.